WWE has had many wrestlers that floundered with no opportunity or hoped to redeem themselves over the years.
The most recent example is Karrion Kross. Under Vince McMahon's regime, the very talented wrestler found himself losing in his debut match to Jeff Hardy on July 19, 2021, and subsequently appeared on WWE RAW as an afterthought. Kross wasn't going anywhere, and the fans didn't connect with him.
Cut to August 5, 2022, with Triple H now in power, The Herald of Doomsday returned alongside his wife, Scarlet Bordeaux, and is now better off as a mainstay on WWE SmackDown.
While Kross seemed to have an awful time before being repackaged, there are several other wrestlers who were in a far worse place.
Listed below are five wrestlers who were repackaged, and the result was a salvaged career.
#5. From male cheerleader of The Spirit Squad to Dolph Ziggler
In January 2006, a group of five male cheerleaders, dubbed The Spirit Squad, made their debut on television. Despite being a terrible gimmick, not long after, they were plunged into a major storyline involving Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels.
The Heartbreak Kid was their target predominantly after siding with McMahon, and simultaneously Kenny and Mikey, two members of the team, won the World Tag Team Championships. All stable members were allowed to defend their championships under Freebird Rule.
By mid-2006, the feud between Michaels and the WWE chairman translated into the reformation of DX, and since then, The Spirit Squad was practically the Attitude Era duo's punching bag. After losing to DX multiple times, including in the main event of Vengeance, they disbanded in November of that year.
In September 2008, Nicky, a stable member, was seen backstage introducing himself as "Dolph Ziggler." In his first match upon return, he lost to Batista.
Slow and steady, Ziggler made a name for himself, gaining notice from the WWE Universe after aligning with Vickie Guerrero and subsequently feuding with then-Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio and producing great matches with the WWE luchador legend.
In 2011, he briefly had a main event storyline on WWE SmackDown against then-World Heavyweight Champion Edge, during which, albeit briefly, he held the title.
Over the next few years, he made a mark by winning the MITB contract, a remarkable ladder match versus John Cena, winning the Big Gold Belt in debatably the most feel-good cash-in moment in WWE, with the crowd cheering raucously.
While he was unable to sustain a main event run, Ziggler still went on to have amazing storylines and win championships, notably his feud with The Miz in 2016, which included a mesmerizing Intercontinental Championship match at No Mercy, and an NXT Championship win over Bron Breakker and Tomasso Ciampa at NXT Roadblock 2022.
#4. From NXT reject to a major draw for WWE
On June 2, 2010, Windham Rotunda joined NXT under the ring name Husky Harris with Cody Rhodes as his WWE Pro. At the time, the NXT rookies were paired with a WWE Superstar under their guidance.
On August 17, he was one of the two rookies eliminated from NXT. Despite this, he appeared on the brand a few more times before debuting on the main roster as part of The Nexus.
When CM Punk took over the faction after former leader Wade Barrett left, Harris was allowed to remain in the faction. The run didn't last long. However, as part of the feud between Punk and Randy Orton, the latter punted Harris on January 31, 2011, episode of RAW.
Cut to 2013, Rotunda brought a gimmick to the main roster, which he was experimenting with in FCW, called Bray Wyatt, a backwoods cult leader who speaks riddles. This became a turning point in Rotunda's career, as Wyatt would become one of the most popular acts in the company, as we know him today.
Despite the crowd chanting "Husky Harris" when he debuted on the July 8, 2013, episode of WWE RAW, the gimmick was so rare and remarkable that it won over the crowd. Wyatt would go on to win the WWE and Universal Championship and is currently a special attraction of the company.
Wyatt is currently embroiled in a sensational feud with LA Knight on WWE SmackDown.
#3. The legend of Umaga - A Samoan Story
Edward Fatu is best remembered in WWE as the Samoan Bulldozer Umaga. After a brief stint with the company in 2003, part of the tag team division alongside cousin Rosey, dubbed 3-Minute Warning, he was released. In 2005, Fatu resigned with the company and was repackaged as Umaga.
This gimmick completely changed the game for the Samoan legend, as he went on to have an undefeated streak throughout 2006 before entering into a feud with then-WWE Champion John Cena. The latter would hand him his first loss at New Year's Revolution 2007. Umaga will unsuccessfully avenge this loss at the Royal Rumble in a violent Last Man Standing match, which is totally worth a revisit.
Despite a short run with the company, Umaga made a mark thanks to consistently being booked in substantial storylines with major players like Jeff Hardy, whom he feuded with as Intercontinental Champion, Triple H, and WrestleMania matches against Bobby Lashley and Batista in 2007, and 2008, respectively.
He returned to the company in 2009 after a hiatus, entering a two-month feud with CM Punk, before being released by the company. Sadly, he passed away later that year.
#2. Before they became icons and formed the Two-Man Power Trip
This entry draws parallels between Triple H and Steve Austin.
In the fall of 1995, Paul Levesque joined WWE as "Connecticut Blueblood." Let that sink in first. That's not even the most ridiculous name he's used. Prior to joining the global juggernaut company, he was known as Terror Risin' in WCW. Give it a moment.
After losing in a squash match to Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania XII, he was known backstage as a member of The Kliq alongside Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall. It was even claimed that he was scheduled to win the 1996 King of the Ring, but the victory was instead awarded to Steve Austin.
He would later find success after forming D-Generation X alongside Shawn Michaels, with the stable being one of the most important stories of the Attitude Era. Now let's look at the poster boy of this period.
Steve Austin joined the company in December 1995 and wrestled his first match, defeating Matt Hardy on RAW using the moniker "The Ringmaster." He was also awarded the Million Dollar Championship by his manager, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. Considering the gimmick as weak, Austin discarded it in favor of the Stone Cold persona.
"After watching the Pulp Fiction movie with Bruce Willis, that's the haircut that inspired me. I was traveling on the road to Pittsburgh with Dustin Rhodes and before I went to the show, I said f**k it. I went into the bathroom with a razor blade and shaved all my hair off," said Austin.
Austin recalled on the Steve Austin Show podcast:
"...I grew in the goatee, came up with the ‘Stone Cold’ gimmick, and that’s when all of the pieces started falling into place,” said Austin. “That’s when I got some direction."
Triple H and Steve Austin's careers were saved despite having terrible gimmicks initially, and they found immense success in WWE. The two men formed an alliance in 2001 under the moniker "Two-Man Power Trip."
They held the Tag Team Championship together after defeating The Brothers of Destruction at Backlash 2001. At the time, Austin was the WWE Champion, and Triple H was the Intercontinental Champion.
Despite Austin's retirement in 2003, he remains arguably the most popular name in all of wrestling, as evident any time he makes an appearance on television, most recently coming out of retirement for a match against Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 38.
Meanwhile, Triple H became a 14-time world champion among multiple other accolades, forming factions such as Evolution and The Authority and is currently the company's Chief Content Officer after officially retiring from in-ring competition in 2022.
#1. When the talent is just too good, it's hard to put them down for long.
Few may know that Aron Steven Haddad's debut match in WWE came in Vengeance 2003, wherein he competed as the Easter Bunny in the APA Bar Room Invitational.
After spending a few years in OVW as Aaron 'Idol' Stevens, the man who would become Damien Sandow, Sir Money in the Bank, or Damien Mizdow, was eventually called up to SmackDown in August 2006 along with new tag team partner KC James. They were presented along with valet Michelle McCool as "Teacher's Pets."
By October, the duo had been taken off television. After a brief run as the 'Maharaja of the Menage-A-Trois,' accompanied to the ring by Beth Phoenix and Shelly Martinez, then later as 'Colonel' Damien Sandow in FCW. He was repackaged as the Intellectual Savior of the Masses that we know him for.
Despite his career not being fully realized by WWE, Damien Sandow made the most out of his run with the company.
Aligning with Cody Rhodes and calling themselves Rhode Scholars, the duo feuded with Daniel Bryan and Kane's Team Hell No over the Tag Team Championships in 2012. The following year, he held the MITB contract and wrestled his tag team partner at SummerSlam before unsuccessfully cashing in on then-World Heavyweight Champion John Cena.
More than his loss at the hands of The Franchise Player, the follow-up to it hurt Sandow. He was relegated to being a comedy piece on WWE RAW, mimicking other wrestlers' gimmicks. But being the talented man that Sandow is, he got this character over with the crowd as well, owing to its entertainment value. He aligned with The Miz and became his stunt double, calling himself Damien Mizdow.
Described by Forbes as a "red hot babyface in waiting," Mizdow won the tag team gold alongside The Miz, and all WWE had to do was put him over the former WWE Champion around WrestleMania 31 and give him a push.
The gimmick fizzled out thanks to a lack of direction, and WWE eventually released Sandow in 2016. Out of all the entries in this list, Damien Sandow will be remembered for his consistent popularity among the WWE Universe, but also as a wasted talent by the company.
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